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Baltimore Native Hakeem Butler, Maryland's Darnell Savage Rising After Combine


The NFL Combine was a productive week for Baltimore native Hakeem Butler.

An impressive performance by the 6-foot-5, athletically-gifted wide receiver from Iowa State caught the eye of any teams looking for help at wide receiver early in the draft.

Some believe Butler has vaulted himself into first-round conversation, and Draft Wire's Luke Easterling projected him to the Ravens at No. 22 in his latest mock draft.

It was the latest triumph for someone who has overcome adversity. Butler's mother, Sheryl Butler, died of cancer when he was 16, forcing Butler to move from Baltimore to Houston to live with his aunt and uncle.

That tragedy could have derailed Butler, but he wouldn't allow that to happen. He is still motived by memories of his mother and has no doubt she would want the Ravens to draft him. 

"She'd be immensely proud of me," Butler said. "She'd be crying tears of joy. She'd be wearing my jersey and hoping I'd get drafted by Baltimore to get back home. I know she's looking over me always."

It's no surprise Butler was a top combine performer. He trained for the event in Florida with two NFL greats – former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin and former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

"They've both been very pivotal the last two months," Butler said. "I've grown immensely."

Obviously, Butler listened to their advice. There's been plenty of Combine buzz about Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf and his freakish physical gifts. But who was the tallest receiver at the Combine (6-foot-5, 3/8 inches)? Which receiver had the longest wing span (83 7/8 inches)? It was Butler, not Metcalf.

Butler also had the eighth-best 40-yard dash time among wide receivers (4.49), putting to rest any concerns about his speed.

"Y'all gonna sleep on my speed," Butler warned before he ran the 40. "Once I get up on ya, it's too late."

Butler was a major playmaker at Iowa State, where he caught 60 passes for 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Ten of his receptions went for 40 yards or more. That's the kind of downfield production the Ravens are looking for, and his size and catch radius could also make him an effective intermediate target for quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The biggest issue with Butler is his hands. He had 11 drops last season, but he believes any issues with his hands have been corrected.

"I had some drops during the season," Butler said. "Every receiver does. It's a concentration thing. I know what I have to fix and I fixed it."

Butler accomplished his goal at the Combine, showing that Metcalf wasn't the only wide receiver with impressive physical tools. Is Butler thinking about posting a shirtless picture of himself on Twitter like Metcalf did?

"No," Butler said. "I mean, the dude is built crazy. I can't knock him. It is what it is. But at the end of the day, it's football."

Another player with local ties who fared well at the Combine was Maryland safety Darnell Savage, who was a three-year starter.

He ran a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash, which was one of the fastest among defensive backs. That reinforced Savage's potential to be an NFL playmaker, which he was at Maryland where he had eight career interceptions. Savage also had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl in January, raising his potential be a Day 2 pick.

Savage measured 5-foot-10 ¾ at the combine and weighed 198 pounds. With his size and speed, Savage believes he can be a versatile safety playing effectively either in coverage or close to the line of scrimmage.

"I have something that's really unmeasurable, and that's my heart," Savage said. "I play a lot bigger than I am. I really let me film do the talking. Turn on the film, you see I don't play like I'm 5-foot-10."

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